Is IPL Safe?

Philips Skin Tone/Hair Colour Chart

Home IPL Hair Removal Safety

With the words ‘intense’ and ‘laser’ bandied around the hair removal industry, it can be easy to think that methods like IPL should really be left to the professionals. But that doesn’t need to be true, especially with the new kids on the block; the home IPL systems like Philips Lumea. Besides, some chick working in a salon? That doesn’t make IPL devices any safer; if you know how to use them properly you’ll be just fine.

Key points for IPL safety

Ignorance can make almost anything dangerous so the first thing to do is know what you’re using and how you use it. Even the most careful manufacturers can’t guard against misuse.

Read the instructions: BORING. But seriously, read the instructions, the actual factory ones that come with the product. Home appliance companies like Philips and Remington make the instructions really easy to read, understand and follow so you have no excuse not to read them. These will tell you basic things that will stop you from getting yourself into trouble.

Use it on the correct skin/hair type: There’s no discrimination going on here, no one is trying to piss off people with red hair or dark skin; ensure you have the right skin and hair colours before going near an IPL device. Here’s a chart, but one will also come with your device and lots of devices these days have skin sensors too.

Philips Skin Tone/Hair Colour Chart

Philips skin tone / hair colour chart

Use it on the correct intensity setting: There are typically five intensity settings on IPL devices and these are for different skin types. It’s not only important to select the right one, but it’s also super easy. There are charts that come with the devices that tell you which setting to put it on and often skin sensors to help you choose too.

Use the correct attachment: Attachments are sections of the device that you put over the light window. They can be bigger or smaller than normal and contain different types of UV filter. The bigger ones are usually for easy body parts like legs and the smaller ones are for the face.

While you can use the face attachments anywhere, you shouldn’t use leg attachments on your face. This is because the face has more sensitive skin than the rest of the body and so the facial attachments have more UV filters in them to prevent skin damage.

What other safety issues are there?

You shouldn’t use IPL home systems on any broken skin, burnt skin or tanned skin. You also shouldn’t go out into harsh sunshine within at least 24 hours of using IPL (if that area of your skin will be exposed) because it can make you more susceptible to sunburn and general sun damage.

If you’ve got a kick ass tan then you also need to hold back with the IPL machine or use it on a much lower setting than normal. IPL use with tans can lead to pigmentation issues or scarring.

Health and medications

Home IPL machines are for use on healthy normal skin. Do not use them on any infected skin, damaged skin or skin suffering from conditions such as eczema. Curious looking moles should always be checked out by a doctor regardless and, in general, don’t use IPL on moles anyway.

There are also a variety of medications including some antidepressants that can make skin more susceptible to UV light on the skin. Before using IPL, it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines or, if in real doubt, your doctor. There are also illnesses that increase the skin’s sensitivity to light and again, IPL cannot be used on affected skin.

Each IPL manufacturer has developed a long list of conditions, illnesses and medications that may conflict with the use of IPL. It’s always worth checking this out before use, even if you have healthy skin and it can usually be found on the company’s website. Safety first!

Common Sense Safety Points

  • IPL home devices are not waterproof so don’t use them in the shower, bath or generally get them wet
  • These are complex machines, so don’t take them apart or use them if they are broken or if the light window is damaged in any way
  • Don’t press the flash button with the device pressed against anything other than skin
  • Not for children
  • Only use as directed by the manufacturer.

So they’re pretty safe right?

Luckily for us all, the home appliance industry is so heavily regulated that they may as well be operating under straitjackets. IPL home systems are perfectly safe as long as you use them in the prescribed manner and on the right type of skin and hair.

There’s no rocket science here, they’re easy for everyone to use. But here’s a side effect that should be pointed out:

Redness: IPL machines can leave redness and sensitivity even when you’re using them correctly. Consult the manual that came with your device, but generally you can put ice packs on to reduce redness or swelling. It shouldn’t last for long.

Cool, so I can just go ahead and use it right?

To be totally on the safe side, most producers of home IPL machines suggest that you conduct a skin test at home first before using the machine for a full treatment.

Instructions for this are simple and will be contained within the literature in the device’s box but essentially you need to turn the device to the lowest setting, 1, choose a normal skin area (i.e. not a sensitive one) like the leg and flash the skin as you would do to treat.

Then change the setting to 2 and flash again on a new area nearby. Do this for all the intensity levels UP TO the one that is suited to your skin. Wait for 24 hours and see if there are any adverse reactions. If there’s no discomfort or strange things going on (which there shouldn’t be) then you can just start your IPL path to hair freeness straight away!

What is the best IPL machine?

Read our comprehensive guide to make sure that you make the right choice when spending your money on a home IPL system.

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